With The Order of the Scales, Stephen Deas concludes his epic dragon trilogy A Memory of Flames. Where The Adamantine Palace was pretty decent and The King of the Crags was pretty good, The Order of the Scales is pretty brilliant. This final volume — which is definitely not the last we’ve seen of Deas’ epic world — picks up the story just before the ending of The King of the Crags and immediately explores all the elements of the previous books a little deeper than before.
Love and hate
Again, The Order of the Scales is like a rollercoaster ride with turns and twists and new thrilling discoveries behind every curve. It has the same elements as its predecessors: darkness, intrigue, murders, dragons and political schemes. However, this time the characters don’t engage as much in these political schemes, as they are forced to face the consequences of their earlier scheming.
Because of this, we finally get to truly explore the characters, something that was lacking before. While the characters of The King of the Crags were a huge improvement upon those of the first book in terms of individuality and realism, Deas has managed to give them a whole new dimension in The Order of the Scales, exploring their motivations, their passions and their fears. What was left of good and evil after The King of the Crags disappears and we are left with characters who a reader can both love and hate at the same time.
Deas the butcher
The best characters, however, are still the dragons… Lots of dragons! As more and more of them enter the story, the stakes are definitely raised. No character — or city, for that matter — is safe. With the way Deas treats his characters, that’s all too true; any character, at any time in the story, can unexpectedly face a brutal death, whether it’s being ripped apart by these amazing and horrifying dragons or any number of other random but equally horrible deaths. You never know what will happen, and up to the very last page, you have no idea who will win — dragons or humans — and who will live.
Finally, some real world building!
The best thing about The Order of the Scales is its world building. If you’ve read my reviews of the previous books, you know my main problem with Deas’ trilogy is the lack of world building, even if this lack did favor the storytelling. Fortunately, Deas has dealt with this flaw and finally given his world the attention it deserves. What’s more, he has done this without decreasing the pace. In The Order of the Scales, we get to truly glimpse the world through the eyes of the dragons and Kemir, a sell-sword whose journey leads him from one end of the land to the other. Finally, Deas takes the time to take in the scenery and describe what this world looks like.
We also get to really meet the Taiytakei, the mysterious peoples from across the ocean. While learning more about them, the true mystery of the world is only just taking shape. We are introduced to several new and intriguing magic systems — like the Elemental Men, who can take the shapes of the elements, or the Silver Kings, magicians with amazing and mysterious power — that are eagerly awaiting further exploration in future novels set in this world.
Epic to the core
This is how epic fantasy should be: horrifying dragons, political intrigue, mystery, epic world building, neck-breaking pace, interesting magic and breathtaking battle sequences. There is no wrong or right, there are no heroes; there is only blind ambition, blind devotion, and a struggle to survive. With all its layers and subplots, and a different agenda for pretty much every character, The Order of the Scales proves to be a complex story that will never grow dull.
Why should you read this book?
The Order of the Scales is a huge improvement on its predecessors. If you’ve previously read any of the books in the Memory of Flames trilogy, I highly recommend reading this one as well. If you haven’t, you should definitely give The Adamantine Palace a shot. This is a great end to a trilogy and an even greater start to a bigger story that will hopefully continue soon with Stephen Deas’ next novel The Black Mausoleum, set in the same world with some of the same characters.